Sam Heaps

A Father A Son A Market

I tell them. This is the morning I haven’t bought the gun for. They tell me, it is hard for you, but, if you say it again I’m going to have to call the cops or something.

Standing in the shower. Showering two, three times a day. Wishing I knew how to drown. Incompetent even in this want. A painting. Hands over a body in a shower. Baby blue hands. Another painting. A woman reclining, hovering, a crouch and also a rest. Her right breast exposed to the viewer and the paint is thin near the center of the meat so it is like a light comes from inside her. A white figure, bigger, hunching, leaning over, lips extended to kiss the highest arch of the front her neck — which you could slice a wire through. A line of thick black, of empty space, between the man’s lips and the woman’s chin. As though the black touches each of them. As though the space is dense and part of their touching their closeness their want. But, thin enough to taste the space on either side where they are apart. Death. On the far left. Laughing. Death’s hand supporting the slenderest bit of the woman’s back.

And life too, to the right. Headless.

Music to cover the relentless weeping the talking in the mirror for the neighbors. You are here. You are right here. To the mirror. You are here. Touching the body seeing the woman who is you touch the body. You are right here. Cambodian rock from the ‘60s. No don’t think about the torture. The body. The nipples. The lesions. The photos. The bodies. All dead. The stack of the musician’s bodies. The empty spaces in the sounds. The circles of pavement the market. The circles of pavement the market. Aerial view then slipping amongst the pillars running and laughing and you remember the smell of the fish and the heat. Trying to say, in the now, “I am here,” to the streets as you begin to sob by the trash cans. Streets emptied from the virus which remind you of the photos again and then suddenly a man in a mask with a son. I am here. I am here. I am here.

No matter the boy’s age no matter the look of the father. Sweating. Gulping for air that is not wet with you A. Orange robes and hot. And the circles of pavement and the market.

Our last night. When you stand with me in the shower I am so cold and you touch me and you tell me, but no sex I just want to touch and you say, why can’t we just lie together? But I don’t want to get out of the water drinking beneath the hot stream and standing like that I feel the loss of you. The loss at the end of the summer. The sudden black space where before there was.

The thick black line between our faces on the street. The whole world is hot with my want to cross the line to touch.

I will not again use the word love. This is too painful to be love. The way you left me is not love. What you have with them is love. Whatever we had was something else. Maybe just void. What exists before void. When now there is only void. What is before.

And we fight. You tell me, you are impulsive. You lack boundaries and patience. Do you like that she is threatened by you? I beg you not to look below my shoulders.

You ask why I want to punish you. I tell you it is not meant to be torture, but that there are consequences to your leaving.

You tell me to look at how good you have been. You tell me, you have to trust me.

You, touching my breast, and I cannot feel the hand like my skin has turned to callous. So eager to be in the scalding water with me you leave the key in the door. Forgetting.

But we are already dead.

And when I consent and lie with you and touch my hand to your cheek as you cry, as I cry, and you say. Will it help with the pain if I have sex with you? And I say yes when I mean no. But I have been begging for you the whole night, and so you must think you are doing a service. And you fuck my body like it used to be fucked by you. And I am in my body, I suppose I must be. And this too feels like mourning. And I ride you and hold your hands above your head. And you tell me it feels so different. You tell me it does not work for you the way it used to, and I don’t know how to tell you it is because I am not there, that I don’t know how to find a way back into my body after your betrayal. When you are finished you are hungry, not for me but for food. Your body longs for sustenance elsewhere as I have not given it enough.

You leave me like this, lying naked in the bed, and you never return.
And the bed to my left. And the same walls. And the same shower. And I am here every day looking at the gravesite. And I am here every day sleeping in the grave. Too much sun in the windows. Outside endless channels of empty pavement. Grids. But, wavering.

And you leave.

A letter I keep on yellow paper. You sit with me before returning to your child. Why can’t I give you to him willingly when it means you are good? When it is good. I refuse the martyrdom offered me to instead remain a parasite.

The letter is written in all caps on yellow paper. Your wife must know this is how you write, must be so intimate with this writing. A shopping list. A love letter. An apology. A note so you don’t forget. A photo of her sitting on a hotel bed. Young. A shiny sleeveless dress. Brightness between you, the way she looks at the camera. The look mortar.

In the letter you say you can do nothing to help me deal with the pain. But you think of me. You say better, when you mean worse.You leave. And before you leave I am stroking the tears from your cheek.

The skin along your jaw, loose. The tears. And. Your cheek in my hand. Your cheek in my hand. And. You leave.

My own hand to my own cheek. To the mirror. You are here. You are here.

Your neck beneath the cheek. I have spent too little time thinking of the neck that supports the grace.

I am an emerging writer but have published in a few small journals including Entropy, & Of Other Things and Collected. I hold an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where I was the recipient of a New Artist’s Society Full Scholarship and a nominee for the James Raymond Nelson Fellowship. I currently work as a Master Lecturer at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

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